Tag: thoughtful

Six Stories: Ruby Tuesday

Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were  spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween. Then I got sick, and healthy, and sick. So: post-Halloween Special!

Today’s Six Stories story diverges from the creepy and spooky into a more mundane, if not happier, topic. Ruby Tuesday is a story about a high school teenager, and her interest in the film “Ruby Tuesday.” After a night at a local social phenomena, “Ruby Tuesdays at the Film Theater”, she becomes enthralled by the film’s power to draw audiences and immerse them in the world and story of the film. The source of her interest in the power of this escapism is tragically sad, and devastating to consider. It definitely triggered reflections on processing loss, grief, and the stress of life for me, focusing on the role of stories and media in that process.

Additionally, there is an interesting collision of reality and fiction here. I was curious, and after a quick online search, was not able to find a movie named Ruby Tuesday, but I did find an actress named Ruby Tuesday. While the films this Ruby Tuesday starred in have similar titles to the films assigned to the actress in the story, they don’t match up. There’s also the metafictional aspect, where Rikki is telling her story and analyzing the film Ruby Tuesday, pulling apart how that film’s story draws and attracts viewers at the same time we’re reading that story. Do Rikki’s thoughts and conclusions on the art of film apply to the written form as well, and how completely?

Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!

The Speed of Dark

Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark - Front and Back Cover.

I am having trouble figuring out how to write about The Speed of Dark, so I will start with the most important part: this book is very good and very powerful. It is literally mind-changing, in that it takes you and puts you into the mind of Lou Arrendale. There are sections written from the viewpoints of other characters, and these sections are important in how they provide context, give us a break from Lou’s viewpoint, and recognize plot in ways that Lou wouldn’t be able to. But these sections aside, the book largely focuses on Lou: how he sees the world and other people, how other people see him, and how he interacts with the world, and all of it is extremely absorbing.

Reading often has an influence on how my mode of thought for a few hours: read a collection of speeches by American presidents, and my thoughts will be longer, wordier, more eloquent. Read a chapter of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and my thoughts will be more clipped, casual, slang-y and strange. After reading The Speed of Dark, my mind would occasionally slip into Lou’s pattern of thought, and it would jerk me back to thinking about the book, how Lou sees the world and what he would make of the situation before me. That is powerful.

It is also worth noting that The Speed of Dark is a novel, not a series of vignettes describing one person’s life. There is a fully fleshed out plot that is believable, gripping, and compelling, with multiple subplots woven into the mix. The question of whether Lou would accept the cure or not had me biting my nails in suspense, and the ending was extraordinarily emotional.

The book shatters preconceptions. Sure, Lou is autistic, but he still has a life, still has a job and hobbies. He does not understand social interactions the same as others do, but he is hardly the picture of inappropriate social behavior, a stereotype often associated with autism. As one character says in the story, Lou manages far better than many people who don’t have a recognized mental disorder. In the end, what matters isn’t how labels apply to people or how people fit into various categories, but who the person is and how they see the world.

That said, The Speed of Dark does take place in the future, with some regulatory and medical developments that constrain the effects of disability. This is one way the book purposefully limits its depiction of autistics to functioning autistics, rather than depicting those who are more severely hindered by autism.

Cover Art Review: I think this cover set the mood for the story pretty well.  It is dark, haunting, and uncertain.